Red tide clears off Collier County, but stone crab catch still down

The red tide lingering on Florida’s Gulf coast last fall and this winter has cleared up in Collier County. Fish kills were reported in December in Collier, but the algae blooms that bring thousands of dead fish to shore and cause beachgoers to cough and sneeze have, for the most part, stayed north in Pinellas and Sarasota counties, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Clearer water would be good news for the price of stone crabs and for local stone crab fisherman, who were hammered early this season by a red tide that followed Hurricane Matthew in October. The fewer crabs caught, the higher the market price for Southwest Florida’s most popular seafood. Catch totals are still down in Goodland compared with typical years, said Damas Kirk, of Kirk Fish Co. “Red tide isn’t showing so much anymore, but I think it’s done some damage,” Kirk said. “I think the stone crabs are having a bit of a food supply issue and are starving somewhat.” Read the story here 15:50